It's the dilemma that all new parents ponder over: where will your baby sleep? There is no right answer, and each family works out their own solution. You may have very clear ideas about where you want your baby to sleep, or you may want to adopt a trial-and-error approach to see what works best for you.
Basically, you have four options:
- - In your bed.
- - In his own bed in your bedroom.
- - In a bedside cot.
- - In his own room.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution, but none of them should affect your baby's ability to sleep or the strategies available to you to encourage him to sleep. However, whichever option you choose it is vital that you follow the essential safety guidelines to help keep your baby safe at night.
In your bed
Bed sharing has become more fashionable over recent years, and some experts argue that it is the most natural solution for parents and babies. It is certainly true that, until comparatively recently, many children would have shared their parents' bed during their early years because there simply wasn't the room for them to sleep elsewhere. It is also true that bed sharing is still the norm in many cultures today.
However the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death (FSID) disputes claims that having your child in your bed reduces the risk of cot death. The largest recent study into this subject found that if all the safety guidelines are followed, babies who share their parents' bed are at no less, and no greater, risk of cot death than those who sleep in a separate cot in their parents' room.
- Very cozy.
- Makes night feeds easy, especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Must follow the safety advice.
- Not appropriate if you and/or your partner smoke.
In her own bed in your bedroom
Putting your baby to sleep in her own bed (cot, carrycot or Moses basket) in your room is the safest solution for her. Research has shown that this can reduce the chance of cot death - in fact, the FSID recommends this option for babies under 6 months old.
- May reduce the risk of cot death.
- Easy to respond to your baby's needs at night.
- May be disruptive if your baby is a very light sleeper.
- Still have to get your baby used to her own room eventually.
In a bedside cot
Some manufacturers now make special 'bedside cots' with removable sides, so that you can share the cosiness of having your baby next to you while having her on her own mattress. However, some paediatricians are concerned that babies may get trapped in the space between the two mattresses, it is vital to make sure they are pushed right up against each other.
- Easy to check on your baby in the night.
- Cosy. Cons
- Your baby could get trapped between the two beds.
- No known value in reducing the risk of cot death.
In her own room
For some parents this is the only solution - for example, if your own bedroom is too small to accommodate your baby as well. You may also think this is the only option if you or your partner works antisocial shifts. However, there is research which suggests that having adults coming and going at all hours could help to protect your baby, possibly because she is under more constant surveillance. If you do decide to put your baby in her own room, use a baby monitor to 'listen' in to her and make sure that you respond when she needs you.
- No tiptoeing around your baby at night.
- No need to get her used to her own room later.
- Slightly higher risk of cot death than if she is in her own bed in your room.
- Means stumbling to the nursery for night-time changes and feeds.